Power and Manual Toothbrushes: What To Recommend?

Date: November, 2020

Author: Susanna E. Scherer R.D.H., B.S.D.H.

Education on home care is an important part of the dental hygiene appointment. Patients value their dental professional's advice on what home care products to use in order to achieve optimal oral health. There are many facets to consider when discussing a patient's home care regimen. Some of these include toothpaste, mouth rinse, interdental cleaners and toothbrush recommendations.

Helping patients choose an appropriate toothbrush is a great starting place to encourage adaptations and improvements in home care regimens. It is important to remember that what works for one patient may not work for another. Begin by asking the patient what toothbrush they are currently using, ask if there are products they have tried in the past but did not have success with and ask if they would be open to suggestions.

Manual Toothbrushes

Manual toothbrushes are an accessible, affordable option for many patients. They can be purchased in retail stores, online and patients may receive one at each of their recare appointments. For patients who use a manual toothbrush, it is important to review proper tooth brushing technique. You can also discuss bristle firmness, head size, handle size and remind patients to replace their toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if the bristles begin to flare.

While manual toothbrushing is ideal for some patients it can also have limitations. Patients are not always able to effectively remove plaque or may be too aggressive when brushing causing gingival irritation. The problem could be improper brushing technique, utilizing the wrong type of manual brush or failure to brush for long enough. Reviewing brushing technique, recommending patients spend two full minutes brushing and discussing the type of manual toothbrush the patient uses could result in more effective manual toothbrushing.

Manual toothbrushes like the Colgate® SlimSoft™ contain bristles that are thin enough to access beneath the gumline and a small, slim head for hard to reach areas. The SlimSoft™ is a great option for patients who desire a deep clean and thorough cleaning experience. The Colgate® 360°® Enamel Health™ Toothbrush provides a gentle, proven superior cleaning for patients with dentin hypersensitivity. Colgate® Magik™ is a great manual option for children. Utilizing augmented reality, the brush, Magik Connector and free Colgate Magik app help children learn good brushing habits that can last a lifetime.

Power Toothbrushes

According to the Oral Health Foundation, "scientists found that people who use an electric toothbrush have healthier gums, less tooth decay and also keep their teeth for longer, compared with those who use a manual toothbrush." It is important to first ask your patient if they would like recommendations about a power toothbrush. While many patients will love the suggestion of a power toothbrush, it may not be the right fit for all patients. Some individuals may not be able to tolerate the sensation of a power toothbrush or may not be able to afford to purchase a power toothbrush. If the patient is not interested in a power toothbrush you can rely on your professional expertise to educate that individual on proper manual toothbrushing.

There are many options available to a patient who is interested in a power toothbrush. When it comes to making a power toothbrush recommendation, many dental professionals begin with the motion of the toothbrush head. Options include oscillating, rotating, oscillating-rotating, sonic-vibration and ultrasonic power toothbrushes. Educating patients about the different power toothbrush options available and recommending what you believe would be best for individual patients will help them make an informed decision about which brush would be best for their oral health needs.

Guided brushing is an advanced feature available in some power brushes. This technology works by showing patients all surfaces they should brush and highlights each section as it is completed to help patients achieve full coverage while brushing. For example, the new hum power toothbrush guides patients to brush their best by tracking the frequency, duration and coverage of their brushing style.


Dental hygienists are fundamental in helping patients develop good oral hygiene habits which are essential for good oral health. Patients will appreciate the time you take to provide individualized toothbrush recommendations. When a patient takes your advice and makes a positive change, be sure to praise them! Continue to revisit areas that still need improvement, follow-up on recommendations the patient has not incorporated into their oral care routine and make adaptations to your recommendations based on the patient's feedback.

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